No game this year made me feel as much raw emotion as Left 4 Dead. Surely the game’s itself was part of it — the atmospheric sounds of groaning zombies and the excellently run-down locales definitely helped — but most of it came from simply playing with real people.

L4D’s multiplayer design, especially the versus mode, finds a perfect balance between the every-man-for-himself twitchiness of most deathmatch games and the stick-together camaraderie of co-operative play without missing a beat. There’s a real tension to the survivor portions and a real feeling of vindictive glee during the zombie attacks, feelings that are exacerbated because you know the people behind those screams of joy and anguish in your ear are feeling the same things.

The true sign that I was getting way too into this game was when I stopped a lengthy play session and realized that my throat was bone dry from screaming commands and strategies at my teammates. Not since Karaoke Revolution has a sore throat been such a sure sign of a good time.

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